Se Wamu

September 15, 2012 Leave a comment

After over 2 years in Burkina it is sadly time to leave but happily time to return home. It has been an incredible, life-changing experience and I could not have done it without the support I received from my friends and family, especially my parents. Thank you so much to every single person who called, emailed, wrote, messaged, or just thought about me. You were always an inspiration in my adventure.  Herman Melville expressed it much better than I will ever be able to so I’ll let him explain:

Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us.

It is hard to leave but I hope to return to Burkina someday, and for now, to those I am leaving and to those I will be returning to, it is easier just to say “se wamu”.



September 7, 2012 Leave a comment

100 kids, 21 Burkinabe counterparts, 17 volunteers, 10 days, countless hours: Camp GLOW was exhausting but amazing and I believe a great experience for everyone involved.  Cindy wrote this letter to everyone who supported us in donations, encouragement, or just flat out prayers, and we needed every bit of each. It is a better summary than I could give so I will forward it along through my blog:

Camp G2LOW Fada is now over! Seventeen Peace Corps Volunteers and 20 Burkinabe counterparts came together for a Training of Trainers from July 26th to July 28th to go over lesson plans and make final preparations for the students’ arrival. The opening ceremony for the camp took place on July 29th, and 99 students at the top of their 8th grade classes came prepared to take part in a week of educational and fun activities.

The camp sessions focused on 3 themes:
1. Leadership and communication
2. Healthy living
3. Gender and violence

PCVs and Burkinabe facilitated lessons on active listening, friendship, reproductive systems, hygiene, gender roles, and more. We were also able to share American culture with the campers through a campfire and storytelling, events at a small Olympic games, and a talent show.

By the closing ceremony on August 4th, the campers had made many new friends, learned valuable information, and were sad to leave but eager to share what they had learned. A huge thank you to all who helped make this camp happen! Without your aid and support, this important project to educate Burkina Faso’s youth, the leaders of tomorrow, would not have been possible.

Photos of the camp can be found on the Camp G2LOW Facebook group page, in the Camp G2LOW Fada album under the tab ‘photos’, located at:
A short video of the camp is also posted on youtube:

You can also downoad and read the Fada Camp GLOW newsletter by clicking here: Camp G2LOW Newsletter

Class Dismissed

May 27, 2012 Leave a comment

School is officially over for me.  Class has ended.  Tomorrow is the first day of summer.  When I was a student, I would be full of excitement without a trace of sadness or mourning.  As a teacher, there is still some excitement and relief to have a bit of a break but at the same time, I am going to really miss my students.  For 8 months they were my family and my purpose.  I am really proud as most of them worked really hard and made incredible progress with the computers.  At the end, most of the students could type more than 15 words a minute, while several of them were able to type over 30 words per minute after never having used a computer before this year.  They can also identify all the parts of the computer, have a basic understanding of the Windows file system, and can process a 400 word document with tables and formatting in under an hour and a half.  In all, I loved my teaching job here in Burkina Faso.  Here are some lists of things I am not going to miss and things that I will miss the most:

Not going to miss as a Burkina Faso teacher

  • The snapping of fingers and shouting “Moi, Monsieur” in order to get your attention.
  • The strikes
  • The uphill battle trying to keep computers functioning in Africa
  • The frequent and unpredictable power outages during the middle of class.
  • The “conseils de classe” – a 6+ hour meeting of the professors at the end of each semester and a frustrating cultural strain for any American.

Going to miss most as teacher in Burkina Faso

  • The students
  • The reward that comes with seeing the students succeed.
  • The absolute desire of students to read out loud while knowing that the whole class will chastise them if they read something incorrectly.
  • The chastising by the class of the student who read something incorrectly.
  • The smiles and laughs when I butcher a word or phrase in French.
  • The thought/hope that maybe just one idea that I have taught might change a student’s life for the better.

Though my teaching job is done, I still have a busy summer planned until my close of service in September so keep checking the blog for updates.  Here a few pictures from our “Traditional Dress Day” at school:

Traditional dress usually entails a cotton wrap around the waist, head, and draped over the shouler for the women. The red, black, and white tissue is a traditional Mossi (one of the biggest tribes in Burkina) design.

Mamata and Rouki


Alida, Dimanche, Taladi, and Carine

This probably would not be allowed at a high school in America.

The two girls in front painted themselves with chalk which is a traditional custom as well.

We also had a “Modern Dress Day” the day before.

Here is the textbook (IT for Beginners) that myself and some other volunteers created and published for a first year computer course.

Journee de la Terre

May 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Earth Day, a day that doesn’t actually exist here in Burkina Faso, was April 22nd.  Fortunately,  April 22nd is a date that does exist here so as part of a water and sanitation project I thought it would be a good opportunity to incorporate Earth Day to it.  After getting the school water pump repaired, we needed to hold a seminar on the importance of sanitation and the environment in order to fulfill the requirements of the grant we used to fund the project.  To conduct the seminar, we had a Burkinabe woman who works for a local NGO come to facilitate the session.  She did an awesome job explaining why we need to practice good sanitation habits and protect the environment.  Afterwards, to celebrate Earth Day, we did Moringa tree nurseries that the students could care for and then take them home and plant them at their houses.  Though it will be quite a while before Earth Day catches on in this country (ambiguity intended), it was a lot of fun and the students were really excited about planting trees.


This is the woman who gave the sanitation and environment session speaking to the students in our school cantine.

We also had some trash cans made for the school by cutting metal barrels in half and adding legs.

Odiou, Emmanuel, and Hubert making moringa nurseries.

Alida, Ramata, and Elenore: Three of the sweetest, brightest teenagers you will find on any continent.

The moringa nurseries under a tree at the school. The students have taken good care of them and they have since grown really well and are almost ready to be planted.



April 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Whenever, I don’t understand something and I want to figure it out, I usually end up having long in-depth conversations with myself until I comprehend it.  These conversations can last minutes, hours or weeks and usually take the form of a minimally “enlightened”, scientifically minded version of myself being interviewed (none too happily) by a more romantic, philosophical version of me.  April 25 was World Malaria Day and here is an example of an interview I had with myself on that day:

Romantic Me:  So what exactly is malaria?

Enlightened Me:  Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted by a certain type of mosquito who takes her bloodmeal after dusk.


RM:  Bloodmeal.  That would be an awesome name for a heavy metal band.

EM:  I somehow knew you would say that.


RM:  So what happens when you have malaria?

EM:  The symptoms are very much like having the flu – fever, chills, body aches, vomiting, and it can get really serious and quickly lead to death if not treated properly.


RM:  So it is curable?

EM:  It is curable and somewhat preventable though there is no vaccine for it, yet.


RM:  If it is curable and somewhat preventable, what is the big deal?

EM:  It is curable and preventable for those people who have access to such treatments and prophylaxis.  Many, if not most, people living in developing countries do not have that access.  That’s why it is considered one of the deadliest parasitic diseases on the planet.


RM: How many people have it in Burkina?

EM:  In 2009, there were 4.5 million cases reported here and it was responsible for 60% of the overall deaths.


RM:  Why don’t we have it?

EM:  Actually, we do.  We have the parasite living inside of us but we take a medicine to keep the number of the parasites at a controllable level for our body.  We also sleep under a treated mosquito net which helps prevent the parasitic level from getting to high.


RM:  So the millions of others here who don’t have the US Government providing them medication are not easily able to control the parasitic level in their body?

EM:  Exactly.


RM:  That’s why we have so many of our students and friends telling us they don’t feel well and we can see the fever in their eyes?

EM:  Exactly.


RM:  And if a child is constantly really sick while growing up that could affect their mental and intellectual development which we see in many of the students we teach?

EM:  Exactly.


RM:  So if it is curable, somewhat preventable, and has already been eradicated from the US and other developed countries where it once existed, how is it that it still affects billions of people?

EM:  I don’t know.


RM:   So what exactly is malaria?





Here is one from John to help with the campaign here to Stomp Out Malaria in Burkina.  You can find the english translation in the description.

Here is a cool short video (thus easy to download) on malaria I happened to run into while searching for John’s video on YouTube:

Big Sisters

April 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Saturday, Kaitlyn, a Volunteer in a village about 50 miles from my town brought in a group of ten 6th grade girls to see the “big city” and meet ten girls who have made it to their junior year in high school.  The purpose was to show the young girls what opportunities existed after middle school as well as provide some role models for them of girls who have continued and succeeded in their education, similar to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program in the US.  After a tour of my high school, the 2 groups of girls met up, did an activity to break the ice, ate lunch together, and then talked in a big group about their experiences, difficulties, and goals.  It was a lot of fun to watch their interactions and I think both groups of girls benefitted from the experience – the young girls learning by example and the older girls reaffirming what they have achieved against the odds.

Kaitlyn and a chaperone from village with the 10 sixth graders and 10 juniors at my high school. They look miserable but I promise most of the rest of the time they were smiling.


The girls played an icebreaker game to learn everyone's names. The younger girls were shy for the most part but the older girls did a great job of getting them to speak.

Completely unrelated and nowhere near as cute, this was a pile of sand and dust that I swept up just from my living room after a dust storm this week. I guess many people in Africa have dirt floors instead of concrete but they often become one and the same here.




March 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Last month was the Festival Dilembu au Gulmu, otherwise known as FESDIG.  FESDIG is an annual event celebrating the culture of the Gourmantchie, the tribe of people inhabiting the eastern region of Burkina Faso.  It is a three day festival featuring a slew of different competitions, traditional music and dance, arts and crafts, and food.  Since it takes place in small village a short distance away from my town, myself and 3 other volunteers decided to hop on  a bush taxi and check it out.  Here is what we found:

Pat and I standing in front of the entrance to the festival grounds.

As always, there were lots of spontaneous drum circles.

There was even a fashion show. Here, Fatimata is modeling a hand-made traditional cotton wrap. I couldn't tell the difference between any of the women's wraps except for the fact they were different colors.

I'm not exactly sure if this guy was modeling an outfit or just some crazy who hopped on the stage. Either way, I want what he is wearing.

Yempabou is sporting a fashionable blue boubou and cane - a perfect ensemble for doing some light sand-reading.

These are finalist dishes for the food competition - benga (beans and rice), and toh. Exquisite.

Next came the donkey races. Donkeys run surprisingly fast with children on their backs. I hit on a trifecta in 8th but lost it all on the longshot in the 9th. (Note: no monetary bets were actually made and amazingly no children were hurt.)

Pat, Luis, Nick and I in front of the Welcome sign. Findie.

There was also an archery competition. This hunter reminded me of an ewok, right down to his cuddly features and cold-blooded efficiency.

If you look close enough you can see the arrow slicing through the air towards an Imperial Storm Trooper (or round target on a dead tree.)

After archery was the wrestling competition. Two men enter, one man leaves.

Based solely on my clear advantage in nutritional intake over the last 30 years of my life, I had considered entering the competition until this guy got in the ring. He outweighed everyone (including me) by a good 50 pounds of muscle and ended up dominating the competition.

As with any good festival, once the sun starts to set (or usually to rise) the dolo flows like wine. My favorite thing about enjoying the local beer is drinking out of the calabashes (giant wooden bowls).